REVIEW: Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s ‘Shrek the Musical’ an absolute treat for the whole family

Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s fun-filled Shrek the Musical has all the earmarks of a delightful Halloween treat for the entire family.  Some audience members were seeing double as the musical’s dynamic duo, Shrek and Donkey, were not only present onstage, but also in the crowd.  In the spirit of the season, some children opted to dress as their favorite Shrek character, which is encouraged (though not required).  This exciting production balances sweetness and hilarity through a few amusing tricks and special effects, which is all part of the story.  However, what makes Shrek’s tale so enduring and lovable is its underlying authenticity.  Underneath it all, life is best lived without a mask.

Chris DiOrio as Shrek

Chris DiOrio as Shrek Photo courtesy of Hingham Civic Music Theatre

Directed by Lisa Pratt, musically-directed by Mark Bono with choreography by Tara McSweeney Morrison, Hingham Civic Music Theatre continues its 69th season with Shrek the Musical in its final weekend from Friday, October 27 through Sunday, October 29 at Hingham Town Hall in the Sanborn Theatre in Hingham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.  Click here for a clip from the musical.

Through its richly-painted set pieces by Lisa Pratt and colorful, meticulous costumes by award-winning costumer, Kathryn Ridder, the visuals in Shrek the Musical are likened to the popular Dreamworks film adaptation, right down to the Gingerbread Man’s gumdrop buttons.  However, having seen the film adaptation, Shrek, based on the book by William Steig, and the film’s many film sequels, Shrek the Musical expands the film’s premise, offering additional scenes and an upbeat, fanciful, rock-tinged soundtrack, composed by Jeanine Tesori.  I’m a Believer by the Monkees is also included.  Shrek’s real magic lies is its innovative ability to cleverly blend authenticity, sadness, adventure, and humor.  Tesori’s soundtrack encapsulates this tone in songs such as Big Bright Beautiful World, a sometimes humorous number about strength in the face of adversity and loss.  Debbie Rawson Stratton and Danny Hannafin as Mama and Papa Ogre offer a tender blend of impressive harmony as an adorable Young Shrek, portrayed by Nolan McHugh, looks on.

Shrek the Musical focuses on a lone, but not seemingly lonely green ogre portrayed with warmth, pensiveness, and gruff charisma by Chris DiOrio.  Shrek lives a quiet life in a swamp until some of literature’s most beloved fairy tale creatures arrive, forcing him to embark on an epic quest to save life as he knows it.

Chris DiOrio steps right into Shrek’s quiet awkwardness and offers a softness in his quiet moments as well as an amusing ferocity when his temper flairs.  Stubborn and humble, DiOrio is thrown for a loop when he meets Brendan Smith as Donkey, who keeps the energy kicking as a cheerful chatterbox.  Their instant, snappy chemistry clearly demonstrates why they are a dynamic duo for the ages.  A towering presence, Brendan offers a hint of Eddie Murphy’s iconic vocals combined with his own charm.  A particular highlight is Brendan’s slick choreography and gravitas during a James Brown-style rendition of the song, Make a Move.  Packed with familiar anecdotes and fairy tale references, Chris and Brendan also have some fun with their duet, The Travel Song.

Shrek and Donkey

Leslie DiOrio, Chris DiOrio’s real life wife, portrays bold, graceful, and idealistic Princess Fiona.  Wearing a shining green renaissance gown, Leslie depicts Princess Fiona with grace, humility, and earnestness, especially in a many-faceted, tender rendition of I Know it’s Today.  Chris and Leslie have a lively and sweet chemistry, even when they don’t see eye to eye.  Chris DiOrio’s endearing version of If Words Fail is also not to be missed.

From his first appearance onstage, Anthony Light literally and figuratively takes his character, Lord Faquaad, to a whole new level.  Absurd and hilarious, Anthony Light’s delusional arrogance and clever costuming is a treat, showing off his unapologetic pompousness in The Ballad of Faquaad, accompanied by the show stopping Duloc Dancers.

HCMT's 'Shrek the Musical' - The cast

Brendan Smith as Donkey, Chris DiOrio as Shrek, Anthony Light as Lord Faquaad, and the Duloc Dancers: Halle Pratt, Molly McLellan, Nicole DiRuzza, Alex Huntington, Catherine Bennis, Hannah Ford, Denise Feeney, and Abbey Randall Photo courtesy of Pat Sherman/Hingham Civic Music Theatre

Hingham Civic Music Theatre has a few tricks up their sleeves by way of special effects as each cast member delivers their own wild, off-beat charm.  With a large cast full of iconic fairy tale creatures including a magnificent dragon, a deceptive Pinocchio, Three Little Pigs, Witch, and a Gingerbread Man equipped with an uproarious squeal, the impressive cast is non-stop fun and never loses heart.

Hingham Civic Music Theatre presents Shrek the Musical with Facebook Friday Ticket discount special on Friday, October 27 at 7:30 p.m.  Click here for discount details.  A final evening performance will be held on Saturday, October 28 at 7:30 p.m.  Sunday’s final matinee performance takes place on October 29 at 2 p.m.  All shows are held at Hingham Town Hall, 210 Central Street in Hingham, Massachusetts.

Click here for further details, tickets, and how to support Hingham Civic Music Theatre.  Be sure to follow Hingham Civic Music Theatre on Facebook for upcoming events and more.

The Company Theatre will hold auditions for Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’

While the award-winning Company Theatre continues their sold-out run of Academy of the Company Theatre’s (A.C.T.) musical production of Disney’s The Lion King, Jr. through Sunday, April 30, another Disney production will soon be in the works.  The Company Theatre is going under the sea for the adult version of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, with auditions will soon be held on Wednesday, May 3 and callbacks on Thursday, May 4.  Both dates take place at Company Theatre in Norwell, Massachusetts at 6:30 p.m.  Click here for further information.

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Company Theatre presents Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ this summer. Courtesy of the Company Theatre

Based on the beloved Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of the same name, The Little Mermaid follows the adventures of Ariel, the mermaid daughter of the mighty king of the sea, King Triton. Accompanied by a crab named Sebastian and a cute little fish named Flounder, Ariel gets a glimpse of a world above the sea and longs to take on that great adventure with unforeseen consequences. Under the Sea, Kiss the Girl, and Part of Your World are just a few of the unforgettable songs composed by Alan Menken from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, a heartwarming story for the entire family.

Directed by Zoe Bradford and Jordie Saucerman, choreography by Sally Forrest, and musical direction by Steve Bass, all roles are open for casting and will take place at the Company Theatre Center for the Arts, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts. Audition candidates should be strong singers and be prepared to sing a song from the show in the show’s key or a song in a similar musical style. A headshot or snapshot and a resume is preferred at the audition, but not required. Audition candidates may bring their own sheet music, but the music score will be available with accompaniment.  Please dress appropriately to learn and practice a dance combination.

If unable to attend auditions and are located out of state, the Company Theatre is also accepting video submissions at sally@companytheatre.com.  All submissions must be sent by Tuesday, May 2.

Performances for Disney’s The Little Mermaid will be held from Friday, July 28 through Sunday, July 30 and continuing Wednesdays through Sundays through Sunday, August 20.  Click here for tickets and for further information about the auditions, email sally@companytheatre.com, or call 1-781-871-2787.  Family and Friends Friday offers limited amount of discounted tickets for four or more.  Click here for more information about the Company Theatre’s fabulous 2017 season and follow them on Facebook.

Award-winning journalist JC Monahan discusses her part in Urban Improv’s funniest fundraiser, ‘Banned in Boston’

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Photo courtesy of Urban Improv

What is it like to perform at Urban Improv’s annual fundraiser, comedy, and music revue Banned in Boston?   For the last five years, Emmy award-winning journalist and Chronicle host JC Monahan has taken the stage to support Urban Improv’s dedication to youth empowerment each year while leaving seriousness at the door.  Sometimes the backstage antics are as hilarious as what is happening onstage.

Urban Improv is celebrating its 25th anniversary and presenting Banned in Boston, an evening of delicious food from top restaurants such as Mei Mei, Island Creek Oyster Bar, Eastern Standard, and East Coast Grill, improve featuring guests from business to politics to media personalities, and much more on Friday, April 7 at House of Blues in Boston, Massachusetts at 6 p.m.  This is a 21+ event.   Hosted by WGBH’s Jim Braude and Margery Eagan, click here for this year’s featured guests and tickets.

As the guest list grows longer each year, this exciting, highly-anticipated event get sillier and more inventive.  Anything can happen.  Emmy award-winning journalist JC Monahan talks about her experiences.

Sally Taylor and Charlie Baker

Onstage at Banned in Boston – Governor Charlie Baker and musician Sally Taylor

Jeanne Denizard:  Last year, I interviewed returning musician, Sally Taylor.  Sally said she had a blast at Banned in Boston.

JC Monahan:  She participates every year and is such a big supporter.  I think a lot of the fun happens backstage, but we also have fun onstage too.  It’s a chance to connect with so many other people in Boston behind the scenes talking and getting to know each other, laughing at the costumes we’re wearing and the lines that we’re saying, and it’s a blast seeing some of these people put into crazy situations.  For example, one of my all-time favorite memories is Aerosmith’s Tom Hamilton, dressed in this fantastic blue prom dress, as one of Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters.  Tom has achieved so much in his life and it’s so great he is totally willing to get onstage and be silly all for Urban Improv.

JD:  He’s local too.

JCM:  We have amazing people right in our backyard and it’s fantastic they all get onstage for this cause.  We’re all from different walks of life contributing in our own way in our personal lives, but we are also contributing together onstage.  I am as much a fan as I am a participant.  Sally Taylor is so sweet, so down to earth, and so talented.  I’ve become good friends with WGBH’s Jared Bowen and that is completely through Banned in Boston.  Emily Rooney is hysterical and Matt Siegel, who I only hear on Matty in the Morning.  I usually don’t get to see him face to face.   It’s a little reunion every year.

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Urban Improv presents their annual fundraiser, Banned in Boston Photo courtesy of Lisa Kessler/Urban Improv

JD:  This year, Banned in Boston is hosted by WGBH’s Margery Eagan and Jim Braude.

JCM:  They are two of my favorites and I listen to them all the time.  Jim usually gives me a hard time which is perfect.  It’s a great night and I love everything about it.

JD:   It’s such a great cause.  Urban Improv helps youth cope with real life challenges such as bullying and violence through topical improvisation.

JCM:  Exactly, you’re there to support the arts in many ways, but you are also using the arts in such a constructive way to help kids learn to communicate.  We can all benefit from being better communicators.  I love that they are starting young and reaching kids who may not know how to solve a problem.  Maybe Urban Improv will be that change in their life that sets them on a new path.  How can you not want to be behind that?

JD:  These kids may lack the guidance and are not in an environment where they can get it.

JCM:  Exactly, it takes all of us.  Urban Improv steps in and reaches those kids.  If I can help keep that program going in a very small way, I’ll be there.  I’ve participated for four or five years, but I feel like I’ve been there since the beginning since they make you feel like part of a family.  It is a very inviting, warm, environment and it allows you to be even sillier that you would be.

JD:  Oh, I know!  The funny things I have heard.

JCM:  When you have the congressmen get up onstage and act silly, the Governor, and the people I know through charity events as well, it’s just fun for everybody.  One of the funnier ones is Sonia Chang-Diaz who was funny as Miley Cyrus one year.  Banned in Boston oftentimes have a ringer who is an actual actress or actor that will blow us all away.  Kathy St. George will be there this year and she’ll be amazing.

JD:  You need a few to keep people guessing.  Are any of your characters created with you in mind?

JCM:  No, I think they work hard to keep us outside our comfort zone.  Politicians don’t play politicians most of the time, though last year I did get to play a reporter a little on the nose.  Then, years ago, I was a bratty yoga devotee.  I’m all for putting me in the most uncomfortable, craziest role because it’s much easier than something that’s close to who you actually are.  I’d rather play Miley Cyrus than have to play myself.

JD:  Do you have certain people that you click with better onstage?

JCM:  Anyone who is all in is the person I want to work with and I don’t think there has been anybody who hasn’t been all in.  Lisa Pierpont is always all in.  She came one year in a big, long wig.  If you take yourself too seriously, this might not be the place for you.  The list of people who have said yes are ready to be silly, ridiculous, and get people to laugh and enjoy themselves because we want people to come back year after year and continue to support Urban Improv.

JD:  I know it is an improv show, but do you do any preparation for it?

JCM:  We get the script less than a week before the show, but they do give you a costume comment.  One year I played a judge, so I overnight shipped a graduation gown on Amazon for the show.  I played the yoga devotee and they said to please come in yoga clothes.  You have no rehearsal time and we walk onstage with our scripts.  We are pretty much a mess, and that is the fun of it.

JC Monahan onstage at Banned in Boston

JC Monahan during an improv sketch at Banned in Boston as a judge with cast Photo courtesy of Lisa Kessler/Urban Improv

JD:  What kind of surprises stick out for you over the years?

JCM:  You don’t know what character you are playing opposite until you get there, so it’s always fun to see who got what character.  A couple of years ago, the chefs in Boston made this awesome music video.  Nobody knew they had done it and it wasn’t part of the program.  That took some coordination, preparation, and effort for people that are super busy, but it was hysterical.  This year’s Banned in Boston’s theme is offense, misdeeds, and comedic infractions.

JD:  That sounds dangerous.

JCM:  Yes, you never know.  When I see the script in my inbox, it’s Christmas morning for me.  You find out where they put you, the songs we sing at the beginning and the end and coming up with new lyrics to fit the always Boston-centric theme.  Anybody from this area will get the jokes.  The jokes are always about Boston accents, Boston parking, Boston drivers, Boston politics.  Nothing will be missed and the audience will get it all.

JD:  You talked a lot about what you look forward to each year and what drives you to return.  What do you think is the best reason people should see Banned in Boston?

JCM:  There are a lot of wonderful Boston fundraisers, so it’s hard to capture people’s attention, time, and money, and Banned in Boston has found a really unique way to do it that captures the spirit of what Urban Improv is.  It has great food, great drinks, and a fantastic space at House of Blues in Boston.  There’s no better mix than that.

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Youth improv work in action Photo courtesy of Urban Improv

Click here for more information and tickets to this hilarious, one night only event starting at Lansdowne Pub for a cocktail reception at 9 Lansdowne Street on Friday, April 7 at 6 p.m.  Banned in Boston at House of Blues, located at 15 Lansdowne Street, kicks off at 7:45 p.m.  Click here for more on Urban Improv and its mission.